I was recently at Photo Plus Expo, and many people were discussing the “return” of nik Software plugins. Through the years the plugins have taken on a mythical status. It turns out that software maker DXO has purchased them back from Google and announced plans to redevelop them.

“DxO acquires Nik Collection assets from Google and plans to continue to develop the Collection for the benefit of the photographer community. The new “Nik Collection 2018 Edition” will be released mid-2018,” states the product homepage.

This is likely good news for many, but let’s evaluate where things are right now.

The product is “free”

For right now, the current versions of the product can be downloaded for free.  You are asked to enter your email address and join DXO’s mailing list. I am sure that many are taking advantage of this, just be aware, like all mailing lists, the company will market to you. This is a standard business practice, so don’t be surprised to get emails.  The product was free on Google’s page (post-development abandonment) and continues to be free.

The product is in “deep freeze”

The product installer hasn’t been touched for a LONG time.  Monday, July 13, 2015, at 5:09 AM in fact (on the Mac).  This means no bug fixes for new operating systems or Adobe updates.  In fact, Google’s name is still on the installer (which goes to show you how much attention is being paid to the product). The product has sat dormant for 2.5 years, which is a decade in software development.  In DXO’s defense, making updates takes time and money… but I’d think they’d at least want to take Google’s name off the installers.

The current version is frequently broken

I installed a clean copy under Mac OS High Sierra and Photoshop 2018.  While the installer did find the correct location for the plugins and they show up in the filter menu, that’s about it.  Most of the filters crash when you use them (and not just crash the filter, take down Photoshop and any unsaved edits or documents).  Nothing is worse than a plugin that topples the entire application and causes you to lose all your efforts.

  • Analog Efex Pro — Crash on applying
  • Color Efex Pro — Crash on applying
  • Dfine — Appears to Work
  • HDR Efex Pro — Appears to work
  • Sharpener Pro — Appears to work
  • Silver Efex Pro — Crash on applying
  • Viveza — Appears to work

The standalone versions of the plugins also run, but cannot open up raw files.  Many also seem to be missing presets.

Boy, I wish this tool actually worked.

The bottom line

If you want free software, grab them while they last.  But I get nervous using tools that crash my applications.  The plugins also seem a bit slower under newer operating systems.  I’m glad to hear new versions are in the works (albeit nine months or so away). I don’t expect these new plugins to be free after all DXO sells its other software tools with nik’s U-point selection technology from $99—$199 per package.

I’ll wait and see what these new versions can bring.  In the meantime, I’ll turn to folks like Skylum (formerly Macphun), Perfectly Clear, and On1 for better results and speed.